Above: Explora I is the first ship to launch for Explora Journeys, a new sustainability-minded luxury line

Maiden Voyages: New Ships for Summer

<i>Explora I</i>, Explora Journeys

Cruise lines are making up for lost time. The summer 2023 season sees an impressive fleet of new ships in a range of sizes and styles. Here, we’ve highlighted four that look particularly promising, from a boutique Nile River explorer to a grand ship from a rebooted company returning after an 18-month absence from the high seas. With so many appealing choices nowadays, it’s difficult to decide which to review next! A happy problem.

Viking Aton

Living Room,Viking Aton
Veranda Stateroom, Viking Aton

Joining sister ships the Viking Osiris and Viking Ra, the Viking Aton — named for an ancient Egyptian sun god — begins sailing the Nile in August. Served by a crew of 65, it has 41 staterooms, most with private verandas, the suites boasting a separate sitting room in addition to a bedroom. Viking’s signature blond-wood Scandinavian-chic aesthetic defines the décor throughout, in not just the cabins but also the panoramic pool and sundeck, terrace lounge, bar, restaurant and library. The ship will make round-trip journeys from Luxor, celebrated for its extravagantly colorful royal tombs, with stops at the temples in Qena and Esna as well as the dam and souks of Aswan. Guests enjoy a few nights in Cairo on either end of the 12-day itinerary, with rates that include flights between Egypt’s capital and Luxor.

Emerald Sakara

Pool, Emerald Sakara
Sky deck, Emerald Sakara

Launching in August, this 100-passenger, 76-crew-member ship — Emerald’s second oceangoing vessel — brings guests to petite ports few other sea-cruising vessels can access. During its inaugural summer in the Mediterranean, stops include unspoiled Monopoli, in Italy’s Puglia region, and little-known Amorgos, the easternmost island in Greece’s Cyclades. Designed to bring private-charter superyacht style and amenities to a broader (but still exclusive) audience, the vessel has just 50 large staterooms, the vast majority with private balconies, plus a restaurant with a terrace and a generously scaled infinity pool, spa and gym. The ship carries with it a range of playthings — Seabob diving scooters, paddleboards, snorkeling equipment and e-bikes — ensuring that amusement is always to be had, whether on land or on water.

Crystal Serenity

Crystal Serenity
Pool deck, Crystal Serenity - Ian Schemper

The name of this ship may sound familiar: It’s the first to relaunch from Crystal Cruises, which returns in August with much fanfare after the bankruptcy of its previous parent company last year. Now owned and operated by Abercrombie & Kent, the multi-award-winning line offers an initial sailing in the Mediterranean before heading to the Baltic and Northern Europe, followed by journeys between Québec City and New York. A&K refurbished the cabins, most of which have verandas, and reduced the total number of them to 377. All come with Italian marble, modern furnishings and butler service. Beyond the staterooms, guests can take advantage of impressive onboard offerings: a 3,000-square-foot fitness center, plus a spa, a large outdoor pool, a kids’ and teens’ club, a spacious library and eight restaurants, including a $300-per-person private dining room and the first restaurant at sea from star chef Nobu Matsuhisa. The nearly one-to-one staff-to-guest ratio is among the industry’s highest.

Explora I

Indoor pool on the Explora I
Explora I

Swiss brand MSC Cruises has started a new sustainability-minded luxury line, Explora Journeys, and it’s about to launch its first ship. The 461-suite new-build Explora I makes its debut in July with sailings in and around the U.K., Northern Europe and Scandinavia before heading to Atlantic Canada and the American Northeast. Aiming to “redefine luxury ocean travel,” the ship impresses with four pools, one with a retractable glass roof; 18 dining, lounge and bar venues (serving drinks inspired by the region of exploration); more than 10,000 square feet of wellness and fitness space; and suites designed to feel like urbane pied-à-terre residences, outfitted with Calacatta marble, Frette linens and Molteni & C furniture. For its shore excursions, the line has committed to group sizes of just two to 25 passengers. Whether this ship will actually redefine anything remains to be seen, but we’re certainly excited to find out.

Above: Explora I is the first ship to launch for Explora Journeys, a new sustainability-minded luxury line